This post is going to be a bit counter-intuitive, since it’s a post containing advice on why you should stop listening to advice. Proceed with caution. I’m fully aware of the apparent contradiction, but bear with me.
Most advice is given based on people’s past experiences with things and is based on a ton of assumptions – assumptions that are often not true. In fact, most people, when giving advice, make one fatal error: they believe that they are exactly like you. All their advice is based on what they would do if they were in your shoes – but not if they actually were you, if that makes any sense.
Beware of Bias
For this reason, people will naturally make mistakes in advising you. They will try and point you in a direction that they would like to see you going, not based on where you would like to see you go. This is a clever form of manipulation; if you listen to them for too long, you may end up living someone else’s dream instead of your own. There are some people out there who get a kick out of living vicariously through other people’s accomplishments, and you should be aware of that.
Now, the point of this post isn’t to convince you that you should be paranoid whenever anyone gives you advice because they have an agenda – often times, they don’t. Really. The vast majority of the people who will give you advice have great intentions and will want nothing but the best for you – but that “best” may be the “best” in their minds, while you like something totally different. It’s just one of our inherent biases as human beings, and you should be aware of it.
You â‰ Other People
The bottom line here is that you are not other people. No matter what horror stories they tell you about people who tried to reach their dreams and failed, or how the only way to success is to get good grades, graduate college, and work your way up the corporate ladder, you have to come to the realization that you are not other people’s mistakes, and you have your own dreams that you want to realize in any way that you can. Don’t begin any line of thought in which you’ll assume that you’ll make the same mistakes as others; use the opportunity of hearing the stories to learn from their mistakes but don’t let that stop you from chasing what you want.
Now we’re starting to get to the core of how bad advice comes to be – it’s all based on a lack of communication.
What do I mean by this?
Well, since I already said that most advice comes from people assuming that you are the same as them, it follows that you, in order to get good advice, must communicate what you want and who you are to the person whose counsel you’re seeking. You have to say what your intended result is before you get advice on how to get there.
Paint a Full Picture
If I, for example, wanted to become a doctor, then I’d ask questions relevant to becoming a doctor, rather than asking for generic career advice. It sounds like common sense, but people don’t apply it enough.
That’s why the best people at giving advice are great listeners. They listen to what the person they’re advising truly wants, then they give the appropriate advice. They don’t spout out a one-size-fits all approach. That’s garbage, and doesn’t get anyone anywhere, yet many people insist on giving the same advice over and over again, even if they’re giving it to radically different people.
Moreover, you also should realize that the people who are going to give you advice know nothing more than you tell them about yourself, oftentimes. They never have the full picture of the circumstances. As such, whenever you’re going to be seeking advice, make sure you tell them what it is you want and the circumstances that surround you. Try to make your summary as objective and bias-free as possible. If you color your own story, the advice that you get back won’t be as good as it can be.
So, unless you’ve given people the full picture of your life and what you want as an outcome for a particular situation, take their advice with a grain of salt. Their biases – and yours as well – will taint their advice.
And, most of all, avoid taking generic advice. The more the advice is tailored to your wants and needs, the better it is – most of the time. Even if it is, stay objective and critical, and never take anything as truth just because someone told you so – even if that someone is me.
What do you think about my advice? Do you agree, or is this also generic advice that you should ignore? Let me know in the comments!